The Alice Network (Amazon Link)
Author : Kate Quinn
Published By : William Morrow
Year Published : 2017
Genre / Tags : Historical Fiction, WW2, Adult Fiction, Espionage, Romance
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, eBook
# of Pages : 503 pages
Two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
I went through various phases when reading this book. First phase- utter enchantment. Compared to much of what I’ve read so far this year, The Alice Network definitely has a stand-out writing style. Inviting and easy to get into yet still historically driven and devoted to bringing two eras to life. Many historic novels I’ve tried can read dry- The Alice Network (for the most part) doesn’t, and is initially quite fast-moving. Sort of like a wordier, more elegant cousin of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Totally different settings but both center around two characters from different generations. Several of the characters are inspired by real historical figures, only a few of the main ones are completely whole cloth.
The chapters switch back and forth between two points of view. First is Charlie, a pregnant young woman who is searching for her missing cousin, Rose, some time after World War II. She’s haunted by visions of Rose and is desperate to locate her. Charlie soon encounters the enigmatic Eve, a pistol-wielding and older woman with a colorful past. Eve was a spy during World War I who accomplished great things but has unfinished business. The fates of these two women intersect, as well as their histories. A lot of questions spring up before long. What happened to Charlie’s beloved cousin, Rose? Eve’s hands are badly disfigured- what happened to her during the war and was she eventually captured/discovered? All of this is answered and then some.
I was immediately impressed by this book but it didn’t end up becoming a total page turner. That could be more of a “me” problem, but there was a certain something missing. Most books at this level of quality plus approachability should be simple to get lost in and marathon but I ended up dawdling through middle parts.
At 500 pages, the plot does seem to spread a bit thinly. My main issue was that Eve’s chapters are worlds better and more interesting than Charlie’s chapters. Some of Charlie’s chapters would grind the pacing down and not seem to accomplish much. Charlie is a more relatable character with down-to-earth problems- whereas Eve is a larger-than-life figure who is risking her life with each chapter. It’s quite a contrast that just had Charlie trailing behind in my view. She does show vigor in latermost chapters, however.
I was still entrenched and invested in these characters and the larger storyline. Hopefully it’s not too spoiler-ish to mention this but there is a common enemy spanning both world wars and the momentum to seeing them confronted and dealt with was grand. Though I’m not a history buff, the melding of both world wars in the telling of this story is also a lofty goal of this narrative and seems to be handled quite well.
There are so many things I would have changed though. Scaling back Charlie’s chapters to make this a faster read, increasing the moments of bonding between Eve and the other members of the network would have also been so beneficial to some of the harrowing later moments of the book. Too much of Eve’s time was soaked up by sneaking around and dealing with René versus building truly memorable moments with characters that matter a great deal like Violette and Lili. But those opinions aside, The Alice Network is definitely worth checking out and mostly lived up to the hype.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why you should try it : Historical fiction with an easily digestible yet polished writing style. Two distinct storylines, one during WW1 and another during WW2 star very contrasting main characters. Blends general fiction, espionage, and light romance in what I think is a broadly appealing way. The more pressing plot lines are wrapped up nicely with a thrilling climax.
Why you might not like it : It seems to be a consensus that I much agree with that Charlie’s story lags behind that of the more accomplished Eve. Some middle parts drag, page count might be excessive for the content of the story. Didn’t care for the romance sub-plot and there were several areas for improvement.
The Alice Network (Amazon Link)
Thanks for checking out my review of The Alice Network! Have you read it or plan to? I stepped quite out of my comfort zone in reading this book as espionage/spy novels (and historical fiction to some extent) are not genre(s) I’ve explored very widely. So take this review as being from the perspective of a newbie. I have more reviews planned, had suffered a bit of a reading slump but have missed the joys of blogging. Hope you’re staying safe and finding worthwhile and enjoyable things to do during this time. Also if you have any other historical fiction recommendations, I’d be happy to check them out. ~ Kitty